The Sphinx Apple (Henry)

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The Sphinx Apple
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A group of passengers, including a young woman, is stranded in a snowstorm and takes shelter in an abandoned house. They entertain themselves by telling different versions of the story of a hermit and his lost love, with the young woman ultimately deciding the best version.

In a snowy and treacherous mountain range, a stagecoach driver named Bildad Rose is forced to stop his team due to the dangerous conditions. The passengers, led by Judge Menefee, decide to seek shelter in a nearby house.

Judge Menefee — leader of the group; wise, charismatic, and chivalrous.

They find the house empty but with a fireplace and plenty of firewood. As they settle in, Judge Menefee proposes a game to pass the time. Each person will tell their own version of the story of the former inhabitant of the house, Redruth, and his lost love. The lady passenger, Miss Garland, is chosen to judge the stories and award an apple as a prize.

Miss Garland — young woman passenger; calm, graceful, and observant.

‘I think it is quite charming,’ she said, in her slow, crystal tones.

‘The apple,’ continued Judge Menefee, charging his jury, ‘in modern days occupies, though undeservedly, a lowly place in our esteem.’

Each person tells their story, with varying interpretations of the events. The storytellers include Dunwoody, the windmill man; the Passenger with an Agency; and the Passenger who was nobody in particular.

Dunwoody — windmill man; boastful, cheerful, and resourceful.
The Passenger with an Agency — young man with an agency; diffident, imaginative, and hopeful.
The Passenger who was nobody in particular — nameless passenger; cynical, sarcastic, and observant.

‘What a charming story!’ said the lady passenger, in flute-like tones.

‘What a charming story!’ said the lady passenger, in flute-like tones.

However, when it is time for Miss Garland to judge, they discover that she has fallen asleep and eaten the apple. The story ends with the realization that the true judgment of the stories lies with the lady passenger herself.